Cashless debit cards for welfare recipients are not worth the human cost, senators have been told, the Newcastle Star reports.
The Morrison government plans to make the cards permanent in existing trial sites and move welfare recipients in the Northern Territory and the Cape York onto the system.
A Senate inquiry probing the enabling legislation has heard from academics, charities and Indigenous groups.
Anti-card campaigner Kathryn Wilkes said the system was cruel and demeaning.
She told senators the scheme – which limits most welfare spending – had caused stress and mental anguish.
“This program is not worth the human cost,” Ms Wilkes said on Thursday.
Senators also heard about issues with rent and childcare payments not being cleared on time.
Fellow campaigner Amanda Smith said the government was legislating segregation.
“Whatever the government wants to label what they’re doing, they’re creating and investing in a system of permanent social and economic apartheid,” she said.
Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory chief John Paterson said the public money earmarked for making the card permanent would be better spent on Indigenous housing, education and health.
“We want to get people off the welfare treadmill, we want to create jobs,” he said.
His colleague Theresa Roe said the cards have not been properly evaluated in test sites, yet the government was rushing to make it permanent.
“We want to know where the evidence is.”
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has not received an evaluation of the debit cards by the University of Adelaide, but wants the bill to pass by the end of the year.
Welfare cards ‘not worth the human cost’ (Newcastle Star)